Michigan Scenic Drives: Woodward Avenue

Highlights of Woodward Avenue

Hundreds of sail and power boats line the Detroit River each year during the International Freedom Festival in July.
Hundreds of sail and power boats line the Detroit River each year during the International Freedom Festival in July.

A unique scenic quality of Woodward Avenue and the region is the geographic location of Detroit at the Canadian border. Driving southeast on Woodward from Pontiac, you conclude your journey at Hart Plaza, located on the Detroit River in Detroit's central business district. Approaching the plaza, the Windsor skyline unfolds in front of you. Noticeable at a closer distance are Belle Isle to the east and the Ambassador Bridge to the west. The Detroit/Windsor border is the only geographic location along the American-Canadian border (of the contiguous states) where the United States is north of Canada.

If you visit during the International Freedom Festival in July, you will notice hundreds of sail and power boats. This fun-filled family event has a million people celebrating our nation's heritage, watching hundreds of exploding shells reflecting off the glass of the high-rise office buildings and the river.

Woodward Avenue begins in Pontiac and ends in Detroit, where you can take the following downtown Detroit historical tour.

Detroit River: The tour begins just south of Woodward Avenue at the Detroit River, a designated American Heritage River. It is the most frequently traveled major boundary between Canada and the United States. It is also a major national and international waterway for the movement of freight and other commodities from the United States to foreign markets.

In 1701, French explorer Antoine De la Mothe Cadillac founded Detroit at the foot of the present-day Woodward Avenue at the Detroit River. In 2001, Detroit celebrated its 300th birthday.

Campus Martius: Located at the intersection of Michigan, Monroe, Cadillac Square, and Fort Street on Woodward Avenue, Campus Martius was part of the historic 1807 plan of Detroit by Judge Woodward. Today, it has been rebuilt as a public park and home to new office developments. This site includes the Michigan Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument of 1872.

Lower Woodward Historic District: The Lower Woodward Historic District is on Woodward north of State Street and south of Clifford. This district contains many former retail and office buildings constructed from 1886 to 1936. Significant loft development activity is underway in these buildings.

Woodward East Historic District: Woodward East Historic District (Brush Park) is located east of Woodward, bounded by Watson and Alfred Streets within the Brush Park neighborhood. Known for its high Victorian style residences constructed for Detroit's elite in the late 1800s, it is the location of a major urban townhome development.

Peterboro-Charlotte Historic District: The Peterboro-Charlotte Historic District is located on Peterboro at Woodward Avenue. The architecture represents a study in late 19th-century middle-class single-family dwellings and early 20th-century apartment buildings.

Charles Wright Museum of African-American History: Located in Detroit's Cultural Center on Warren, the Charles Wright Museum of African-American History offers one of the United States' largest collections of African-American history and culture.

Detroit Historical Museum: The final stop, the Detroit Historical Museum, is located on Woodward in Detroit's Cultural Center. The museum specializes in telling the history of the Detroit area from its founding in 1701 to the present, including permanent exhibits, temporary exhibitions, programs, and events. It is especially noted for its Streets of Old Detroit exhibit.

The history of the automobile is found at every turn along Woodward Avenue, not to mention dozens of other interesting spots, such as one of the largest public libraries in America. Don't miss out on this scenic drive.

Find more useful information related to Michigan's Woodward Avenue:

  • Detroit, Royal Oak: Find out what there is to do in these cities along Woodward Avenue.
  • Scenic Drives: Are you interested in scenic drives beyond Michigan? Here are more than 100 scenic drives throughout the United States.
  • How to Drive Economically: Fuel economy is a major concern when you're on a driving trip. Learn how to get better gas mileage.